Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Church is Young

Did you know that this is the longest possible Advent? Since Christmas is on a Sunday this year, we have four full weeks of Advent, which started on the earliest possible date, November 27. Of course, that does not change the number of Advent Sundays, which I usually use for bulletin letters to share with you some insights into the Sacred Liturgy.

There is no shortage of material on that subject this year, since we have begun to use the new Missal. If you look back, this is what I was talking about last Advent; and I was using this space for the past few weeks to help make sure you were ready. I am not sure how much I helped, but I do want to say: you did a great job. Thank you.

Everybody approached the challenge of the change with great good nature and generosity. That in itself is a gift of the Spirit and an indication of your gracious disposition to receive the gifts the Church offers you. I am very proud of our parish.

I received many comments after the debut Masses last weekend. What surprised me the most was that three people commented something to the effect of: That’s the new translation? I already know that; it is the way I learned the Mass growing up – in Spanish.

I emphasized that the new translation is more faithful to the original Latin than the first English Missal. But because of that new fidelity, we now say the same things in English that Catholics around the world say in French, Spanish, German, Igbo, Japanese, and Hungarian. Unlike before, when the English said similar things, we now say the same words in the same way. What a gift!

The other thing was the questions that people asked: What does it mean when we say, Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof? (That is a direct quote from Matthew 8:8, when the centurion wants Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant.) What was that big word in the Creed,…consubstantial? (The Creed was formulated carefully by the Church Fathers at the Council of Nicaea almost 1700 years ago, to be the very, very clear formulation of Christian belief. That is the English form of the precise word chosen to assert that God the Father and God the Son, Jesus Christ, are of the same substance. )

So now that we have these new texts, I have no shortage of explaining that I can do here, and in my homilies, because it brings to light so many elements of our Faith and prayer that had been hidden or disguised before. The fact that the text is new and different means we will be noticing these words and expressions more readily, before we make them part of our reflexive participation. So this is a wonderful time for all of us to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Meanwhile, we have to get good at this by Christmas, so we can lead everyone who comes then in the new prayers. You could not help but notice how we priests were glued to the text, craning our necks and straining our eyes to read every word, whereas before we had many of the prayers committed to memory. I felt like a newly-ordained priest again, anxious not to make a mistake. This long Advent, beginning our lifetime of knowing and loving these words of the Holy Mass, is a wonderful time for us all to be young again together.

Monsignor Smith

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